The Lewis County Rotary Foundation will host a fundraiser Friday, May 14, on its Facebook page to cover costs for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, which mails out books monthly to children 5 years of age and younger.
The program began signing up Lewis County residents in November 2019 and has seen substantial growth in the months since with more than 24,400 books mailed out to 2,375 local children.
So far, 52 percent of eligible children in the county have been enrolled, said Angela French, development director at United Way of Lewis County.
“The purpose of the Dolly Parton library is to just get books in kids' hands," French said, adding later: “It’s success in life just by having a book and starting young.”
United Way of Lewis County and the Rotary foundation are the current partners alongside the Imagine Library. The program ships books to the mailboxes of children and families monthly, free of charge and regardless of income.
"These books are age appropriate and they try to teach just basic principles of life: Honesty, and that type of thing," said Lewis County Rotary Foundation Board Member John Henricksen.
The program’s goal is to enrich the lives of children through literacy development and increase kindergarten readiness. Local partners view the program as an early stepping stone to help children find early education successes and provide a medium for families to engage in that process.
Now, the Rotary Foundation and United Way are looking to take the next step by continuing to spread the word with hopes of establishing a larger reserve of sustaining donors. Funds raised by partners cover postage to send the books to children, which the Imagination Library does not cover.
"This program has been well supported by not only corporate partners but by individuals ... That's really the foundation of this rotary fundraiser in May is to gain more support. We're so proud of how this program has been supported and this would not be possible without the community,” French said.
Local partners are looking for 450 continual donors to contribute $10 monthly. That amount, Henricksen said, would help them cover all expenses currently necessary for the growing program.
Lewis County Rotary Foundation will broadcast live from their Facebook page 6 p.m. on May 14 to begin fundraising and attendees will hear testimonials from families about the impact the program had on their lives.
There’s also a chance to win prizes. Make a donation of any amount now though May 14, and send proof to email@example.com, and you’ll be entered to win a gift basket. Winners will be drawn May 5, 12 and 14.
Donations can be made and more information is available on where to register online at www.lewiscountyuw.com/dolly-partons-imagination-library.
The Rotary foundation’s Facebook page can be found here: www.facebook.com/lewiscountyrotaryfoundation.
Henricksen said as they continue spreading word of the program, they’re also hoping to dispel misconceptions that these books are only for low-income families and that a child would miss out on a book if a more affluent family were to sign up for the program.
Any child is eligible as long as they are 5 years old or younger.
"This is not focused on low-income at all,” Henricksen said. "That's just not true. There's books for everyone.”
Just about every person in the community that has gotten involved in the program has taken to it, Henricksen and French both said. From teachers and daycare staff, to families and children — all are enjoying the gifted books.
Funding early on for the program came from the Centralia Rotary Club, Chehalis Rotary Club and the Twin Cities Rotary Club through the annual Tri-Club Auction that raises money for a central project in the county.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting fundraising efforts, the local Imagination Library partnership had to look at alternative avenues to help secure steady funding for the program.
The direct cost to local partners is $25 per child annually, according to previous reports in The Chronicle.
More information on the Dolly Parton Imagination Library’s international efforts online at ImaginationLibrary.com. The Imagination Library has gifted more than 155 million books to more than 1.8 million children around the world.